Speakers and Panel

Dr Caroline West (Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sydney)

Read about Dr Caroline West

Hugh Mackay (social researcher and author)

Read about Hugh Mackay

Father Aloysious Mowe SJ ( Director of Advocacy and Communications, Jesuit Refugee Service, Rome)

Read about Fr Aloysious Mowe SJ

Prof Peter Singer (Ira W DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University)

Read about Peter Singer

Amna Karra-Hassan (Australian Federal Police)

Read about Amna Karra-Hassan

Michael Parker (Headmaster of Oxley College, NSW)

Read about Michael Parker

Dr Ari Lander (Sydney Jewish Museum)

John Cleary (ABC Radio Broadcaster)

Keynote Speakers

Critical Thinking in an Age of Social Media

Michael Parker
(Headmaster of Oxley College, NSW)

In short, I would like to say that the last ten years – the age of social media- and the last thirty years have thrown up new and insidious challenges to an educated, critically aware population. This matters more than ever because these challenges have the capacity to corrode our hard fought and fragile democracy and indeed our civilised society. A Critical Thinking capacity in as many people as possible is more important than ever to defend against this corrosion, and it is our duty and our privilege as educators to be at the forefront of this defence. There are original, hands on and exciting ways that we can do this which we will look at in some detail including ‘The Bullhunt’, ‘Dudgeon High’ and ‘Bias Bingo’.

After completing a law degree at Sydney University and a clerkship in a corporate law firm, Michael Parker transferred very enthusiastically to the world of education. Over the last twenty-three years, Michael has taught at Cranbrook School Sydney, Eton College UK and Newington College Sydney. He was the subject of the SBS documentary ‘Inspiring Teachers’ in 2007. Most recently he was Deputy Headmaster and Head of Senior (secondary) school at Cranbrook. Michael has published a number of books including Talk With Your Kids About Ethics in Australia and the USA in 2012 and Talk With Your Kids About Big Ideas in 2014. He has also published a Young Adult novel with Penguin, a children’s picture book with Walker Books in the USA and six textbooks.


Ethics and the Meaning of Life

Professor Peter Singer
(Ira W DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Center for Human Values, Princeton University)

Can philosophy answer the question: “What is the meaning of life?” Some philosophers would say no, because the question rests on the mistaken assumption that life has a meaning. There is a sense in which that is true, but at the same time, philosophy — or more specifically, ethics — assists many people in finding meaning in their lives. If people are encouraged to question their values on topics that are relevant to their everyday lives — like what they eat, or how they spend their money — many of them will be stimulated, not only to think more explicitly about their values than they ever have before, but also to live more closely in accordance with those values than they would otherwise have done. An education in ethics can truly be a life-changing experience, and for that reason, it should have a central place in everyone’ education.

Peter Singer is a philosopher and author, best known for his work in ethics, and often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher. In 2005 Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He is known especially for his work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, and the obligations of the affluent to aid those living in extreme poverty.

Peter Singer has written, co-authored, edited or co-edited more than 40 other books, including Practical Ethics; The Expanding Circle; How Are We to Live?, Rethinking Life and Death, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason) and The Life You Can Save. His works have appeared in more than 20 languages.
Since 1999 he has been Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, a position that he has, since 2005, combined with the part-time position of Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne, in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. In 2012 he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.


Walking through the valley of the shadow of death: exile and solidarity as a foundation for values in education

Fr Aloysious Mowe SJ
International Director of Advocacy and Communications, Jesuit Refugee Service

The experience of being an exile lies at the very heart of the foundational stories of the Abrahamic traditions. Exile is one of the key liminal states: the exile, whatever the welcome he or she may receive, always remains a sojourner in a strange land, both experiencing, and experienced, as the Other. The Abrahamic traditions fold this state of alienation into an ethic of solidarity: liminality becomes a moment of creativity, when host and guest discover their fundamental solidarity. Drawing on scriptural traditions, the stories of refugees and those who accompany them, and current discourse about forced displacement, the paper seeks to explore the ways that the refugee experience may bring a fundamental shift in the way that young people view themselves and the world.

Fr Aloysious Mowe SJ is a member of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), and works at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome as the International Director of Advocacy and Communications for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. JRS is present in over 50 countries and provides a broad range of services to approximately
730,000 people worldwide. Before his current position, Fr Mowe was the Director of JRS Australia. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Centre, Georgetown University, where he taught Islamic law.


Beyond Belief:
How we find meaning, with or without religion

Hugh Mackay (Social Researcher and Author)

Around two-thirds of us say we believe in God or some ‘higher power’, but fewer than one in ten Australians attend church weekly. In this lecture, Hugh Mackay presents this discrepancy as one of the great unexamined topics of our time. He argues that while our attachment to a traditional idea of God may be waning, our desire for a life of meaning remains as strong as ever.

Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and the author of sixteen books – ten in the field of social psychology and ethics, and six novels. In recognition of his pioneering work in social research, he has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and awarded honorary doctorates by Charles Sturt, Macquarie, NSW and Western Sydney universities.

A newspaper columnist for over 25 years, Hugh is currently an honorary professor of social science at the University of Wollongong, an adjunct professor in the faculty of arts at Charles Sturt University, and a patron of the Asylum Seekers’ Centre. He was previously deputy chairman of the Australia Council, chairman of trustees of Sydney Grammar School and the inaugural chairman of the ACT government’s Community Inclusion Board. In 2015, Hugh was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia.


“A Crime without a Name”: The testimony of the victims and perpetrators of the Holocaust. Is it possible to create meaning out of trauma?

Dr. Ari Lander
(Education Officer, Sydney Jewish Museum)

On August 24, 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered a live broadcast from London in which he stated: “We are in the presence of a crime without a name.” He was referring to the destruction of European Jewry, a crime which we now know as the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a crime which shattered the European self-image and continues to reverberate down the generations. In this talk I will examine the “intimate” relationship between perpetrators and victims and argue that in order to teach about genocide teachers and students must grapple with the testimony of both the victims and the perpetrators.

Dr Ari Lander is currently an education officer at the Sydney Jewish Museum where he has been working for the past six years. Previously he tutored and lectured for seven years at the University of New South Wales. In 2012 he completed his doctorate on the history of Zionist youth movements in Australia. While at the University of New South Wales he lectured on the Holocaust and comparative Genocide. He is also an award winning playwright and previously completed the NIDA Playwrights Studio and was a resident writer with the Griffin Theatre Company.


The Philosophy of Happiness

Dr Caroline West

We all want to be happy, and to lead a worthwhile life. But what is happiness? Why should we want it? And how do we get it? This talk draws on insights from philosophy and psychology to shed light on age-old questions about the nature, sources and value of happiness.

Dr Caroline West is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sydney. She received her PhD in philosophy from The Australian National University in 1997. She lectured at Monash University and Macquarie University, before joining the Department in 2002.

Her main areas of teaching and research interest are in metaphysics (especially personal identity); ethics; political philosophy; philosophy and psychology of well-being; applied ethics and political philosophy (including bioethics, corporate social responsibility, free speech, institutional design and wellbeing); and feminist philosophy. Among other projects, she has written a book on Happiness.


Interfaith Panel

Amna Karra-Hassan is an activist and advocate for diversity, inclusion and gender parity. She works for the Australian Federal Police in the Reform, Culture and Standards portfolio which is responsible for engaging the workforce in cultural change. Amna is also the Founder and President of the Auburn Giants Australian Football Club and has pioneered programs for women of minority communities in Western Sydney. She uses her influence to change the conversation on gender, culture, faith and representation.


Rabbi Zalman Kastel is National Director of the Multi-Faith based Together for Humanity Foundation. Its focus is on improving intercultural understanding and respect for differences of belief in schools and communities. He was ordained as a Rabbi after study in the UK, Australia and the US and completed a Graduate Diploma in Education with the University of New England at Armidale. The focus of his writing is on ethical issues as they intersect with Orthodox Judaism and/or interfaith cross-cultural bridge building. Racism, inter-religious relations, Islam, the full-face veil, conflict, and homosexuality are some of the issues explored in his writing.

Read more about Rabbi Zalman Kastel


Fr Aloysious A. Mowe SJ is International Director of Advocacy and Communications for the Jesuit Refugee Service, based in Rome. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1983, and was ordained a priest in 1996. He was a tutor in Classical Arabic and Islamic History at the University of Oxford’s Oriental Institute, and worked as director of research at the Middle-Eastern Graduates Centre in Malaysia. He served as a weekend parish associate in a parish church outside Oxford, UK, for 8 years, and worked as a hospital chaplain in New York for 5 months.

Fr Mowe was an International Visiting Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, Washington DC, where he gave lectures on Islamic Law, and became a regular contributor to media discussions about Islam. He graduated with a degree in Divinity from the University of London, and went on to study medieval theology, Islamic history, and Islamic law, at the University of Oxford. He also has degrees in philosophy and Arabic.


Ven Tencho recently retired after eight years as Director of Kunsang Yeshe Retreat Centre in the Blue Mountains. She was ordained as a Buddhist Nun in 1998. She lived and studied in Nepal and India for two-and-a-half years before completing seven years of formal Buddhist philosophy training at Chenrezig Institute in Queensland. Prior to ordination, her background was Radio and Theatre production and Theatre/Arts work with women and youth in prison and juvenile justice systems.